Words by Preezy
In this exclusive interview Beyoncé’s father Mathew Knowles gives his feelings and reactions to her new visual album Lemonade, which premiered on HBO on April 23rd.
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WatchLOUD: Lemonade has been a big success for Beyoncé and basically was a global celebration for her fans and what she represents to them. How does that make you feel as a father?
Mathew Knowles: Well, Beyoncé, she’s a phenomenal artist. And just to see her artistry and how she continues to grow as a person, as a mother, as an artist and, you know, to really think outside of the box and not be afraid to be vulnerable to her audience, I’m extremely proud of Beyoncé.
The visuals that accompany the project caused quite a stir and showed a different side of Beyoncé. It held a little more depth than anything she’s done. Would you agree?
I agree with you, it absolutely has more depth, more vision, more vulnerability would be another word that I think I would use, that she’s more vulnerable in this piece of work. She continues to be light-years ahead when it comes to her artistry and her music.
How did you first hear Lemonade?
I was like everyone else, you know, I went in and made my popcorn and watched the HBO special.
What was your reaction after first hearing Lemonade as an album?
Well, at first, I was, the first ten minutes, I was a little…confused. I didn’t know quite where she was coming from. Was she talking literally or was she leaving it up to the viewer to use their own interpretation of what she was saying? And then it hit me that she had cleverly made this body of work to make one think and make one think a lot. It was heavy. In some places it was dark, but then towards the end you could see the acceptance, the forgiveness. So she kind of took us through her inner emotions of the steps which one goes through of disappointment, of anger, grieving process, acceptance, forgiveness and kinda going through that whole process with us. But she also enlightened us. She enlightened us with Black Lives Matter, she enlightened with some of the culture of Louisiana and the Creole culture. She enlightened us with Malcolm X and his statements on what is the role of black women years ago and made us think where do black women stand today in America and making us, the viewer, really dig into their emotions. I heard a lot of comments ’cause some people said, “well, she was talking about this person” or “well, she was talking about that person,” well, no, she was not literal, she was talking about this. So it’s really interesting that it has spurred this amount of debate. The activity online has been incredible, so that’s what you want. I’m sure she’s gotta be sitting back very pleased to have the feedback.
Speaking of Civil Rights, was that a topic in your household when she was growing up and do you think that has influenced her artistically?
I grew up in Gaston, Alabama. I was born in 1952. That was the height of civil rights and segregation, George Wallace, and that whole thing. My mother went to high school with Coretta Scott King. I ended up as a child, being the first [black kid] in elementary, first in junior high, first in high school, one of the first at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, so I had to carry a real heavy cross as a kid, being spit on and being jailed. We often don’t tell the story of these young kids what they had to endure. So I shared with my kids these stories and I wanted them to understand the steps that I had gone through, making sure we had the right to vote and all the other civil liberties that we have today as black folk. So they grew up with that and their mother was similar. So they understood this movement and Beyoncé understood this movement and was always connected to it.
Do you and your daughters ever have conversations about parenting?
Solange had my grandson at a very early age so we talked a lot about parenting and she’s a great great parent, by the way. I haven’t talked as much with Beyoncé about parenting. The kids are so small and mothers talk more about that more than dads so I haven’t talked as much with Beyoncé as I did with Solange.
It’s been reported that you and Beyoncé have had a rocky relationship over the past few years. Would you care to address that?
I think if one would look at the HBO special then you’d see what everybody else saw. They saw me talking to Beyoncé when she was a young child and challenging her, even then, to understand where she was coming from and critical thinking, but you also seen me diving on the bed and playing with Blue Ivy so that kinda answers your question right there. I choose to let the press say whatever they want and let people say whatever they want. It’s nobody’s business how much I see my daughter or my grandkids, that’s something personal that I care not to share.
How do you feel about pundits like Piers Morgan and other critics questioning Beyoncé’s recent performances, as well as her message and intent with this album? Does it ever get you upset?
I don’t react to it, that’s the answer. We’ve been in this business for 25 years now and in 25 years the media has changed drastically. 25 years ago, there was journalists, they took journalistic approach. It was important to them that the information that they wrote was accurate, it was truthful and that they had done research. Today, that’s a different story. We can’t say that with pride. For example, all of these years, if you look, probably 70% of the articles written in the last ten years that has me in it – Mathew Knowles – 70% spelled my name incorrectly. Now, 25 years ago, that would be a disaster. That would be the most embarrassing thing for a journalist not to spell an individual’s name correctly.
But just that one thing shows 25 years later, those things don’t matter. It’s about impact, it’s about getting a story, it’s about sensationalism. We’re grownups, we don’t look at that. You can never make me angry, only I can make me angry and that’s the whole psychological process. People can’t make me angry, only I can get me angry, so I don’t get angry from that. I understand how it works, I understand the agenda for most is “We have to sell advertising and we have to have an audience and if we have to sensationalize to get an audience we will ’cause if we don’t, we don’t have a job.” So I get that and I respect that. I’m focused on what I have to do today, I’m not on any of the blogs, I’m not Twittering, I’m not on Facebook, I don’t do that.
There’s been speculation that some of the lyrics in Lemonade were inspired by you? Would you like to address that?
Well, I can only speculate like everyone else. And I think the genius in this body of work that Beyoncé has done is she has us all speculating and she has us all letting our minds expand on her words and the expansion of them. My kids, they take a lot from me and I always come from an intellectual place. Like intellectually, not emotionally, and most people come from an emotional place and it’s unfortunate. But I’m sure that…when I listen to “Daddy Lessons” – and Beyoncé wrote me a song on her first album called “Daddy” [as well] – but when I hear this song [“Daddy’s Lessons”] I’m sure that some of that, hopefully, I inspired her. But am I sure, no.
What do you feel is the greatest advice you’ve given to Beyoncé in terms of her career?
One is to go with your gut and trust your gut. And if your gut throws up a red flag, pay attention to it. But I think the biggest thing I’ve given my kids is in type of relationship — personal, business, friendship: how it starts is how it ends. If a person shows up late the first time you meet them, they probably gonna be late a lot. They end up lying in the beginning, they’re probably gonna be a liar throughout. If it starts with drama, it’s probably gonna end with drama. How it starts is how it ends.
What would you say to people who have a less than positive image of you?
I would tell them to go and buy my book, it’s called the “DNA Of Achievers: 10 Traits of Highly Successful Professionals.” And they can also go online and buy that book at dnaofachievers.com. And this book talks about ten traits of successful people. And if they read that book and really thoroughly comprehended and took their time, they would get a better understanding first of themselves and then I think they would get a better understanding of me. Because again, this is media and media can help build an impression of someone, but you have to get to know the person. People don’t know me and I’m not trying to get accepted. I’m 64 years old so it doesn’t really matter what a 19-year-old thinks of me, it’s not gonna impact Mathew Knowles’ life at all. So if something was gonna impact my life, I would be concerned about it, but none of this impacts my life. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but I just want people that are, first of all, intellectual. But unfortunately that would eliminate a lot of those people cause they don’t read books, unfortunately.
You played a huge part in the success of one of the biggest girl groups of all-time in Destiny’s Child, but there haven’t been any girl group’s over the last decade to reach that same level of success. Do you see girl-groups making a comeback soon?
A little context on that. Yes, I put together Destiny’s Child. They were on my label, I managed them, we partnered with Colombia Records and we developed and built that with the hard work of those ladies and their artistry. Built them to today they are unquestionably the No. 1 girl group in pop and R&B in the history of music. Let’s set that aside for a minute. I’ve also had the opportunity to build a gospel label, Music World Gospel, to a No. 1 label in the mid-’00s and to have developed and managed Trinity 357, who are the No. 1 female trio in the history of gospel. I also had an opportunity in the early ’00s, on Columbia Records, to co-manage four girls from Sweden. They were 14, 15, 16 years old, and the name of the group was Play and this group was multi-platinum. And then I managed the group Blaque for a short period of time, so I’m an expert at this girl group thing.
[I’m] truly an expert of them and no one in the whole world has had the successes that I’ve had with girl groups, so I talk from a place of experience, and I think the girl groups are coming back. I think you’ll see in the next 24 months a plethora of girl groups. Just the other day, I was reading a magazine and they were talking about the three girl groups to look at and one of those is my group that I put together called Blushhh Music, which nobody’s done before, two rappers and one vocalist, and they’ve been in my boot-camp – the same one as Destiny’s Child and Trinity 357 – for nearly two years. And in the next 30 days we’ll start going to radio, we’ll start putting out the videos and they will do their thing. So I’m excited about it and it offers females another alternative to purchase and explore and enjoy music. So yes, girl groups are about to hit us.
What can we expect next from you Mr. Knowles?
Excited about Blushhh Music’s new album, that will be coming up this year. The first single and video should be out the next month. Excited also about a number of seminars on just how to get into the music industry and you’ll hear about those. I’m in Miami on Memorial Day Weekend, Baltimore is coming up, Atlanta is coming up. And then I’m teaching at Texas Southern, this will be my ninth year coming up in the Entertainment Recording Management degree, I’m the only one in the country. And then I get my PHD this summer and, hey, I’m just having fun. I always say I get to live my dream everyday. And then, lastly, my new book hopefully will be finished this year, Racism From The Eyes Of A Child, and that’s interesting when you understand what Beyoncé is doing. And then Solange’s album, I won’t give [details on] that away but it will have a common theme to everything we’re doing. So that’s it in a nutshell, thank you for the interview.